Published on August 07, 2020

path in the woods

The Path of Hope

Nearly 100 years ago, in 1921, Chinese essayist Lu Xun wrote, “Hope is like a path in the countryside. Originally, there is nothing—but as people walk this way again and again, a path appears.”

If you come across a path in a woods, or across a field or meadow, what’s the first thing you say?  Probably it’s a question: “Where do you think this path leads?” Then other questions come along, too: “Why do you think there is a path here?” and “Who made this path?”

If you are lucky, someone will say, “Let’s follow it and find out where it goes!” and then you’ll be in for an adventure.

Paths don’t just come out of nowhere. Sometimes they exist because people started walking there for a shortcut—like a path cutting diagonally across a field. Sometimes they exist because someone planned and designed them, sketched them out on a map, and set about creating them. In either case, someone had to pave the way.

If you’ve ever been out on a hike and suddenly the path disappeared, you know how disquieting that can be. The best paths are those that have been strengthened by the repeated use of other travelers. They are the paths that are created, as Lu Xun says, “as people walk this way again and again.”

These paths take time and persistence. They are walked again and again, day after day, season after season. Pretty soon they become so clearly defined by constant use that there is no danger they might disappear.

At this moment, when there is so much uncertainty in the world, I love the idea that hope is a path. Our hopes endure each day because we are not walking alone; there are others walking this path with us and sharing the journey. One of the reasons that I am hopeful—even in the midst of the pandemic—is because I know who shares the pathway with me.

Our mission statement describes a path of hope: “We extend God’s care through the ministry of physical, mental and spiritual healing.” Let “extend” become “build a pathway,” and our mission is “to build a pathway of God’s care…”

We don’t accept or believe in fate—we believe in God’s leadership and care. Life has meaning and purpose—and that purpose is to extend God’s care in a way that creates pathways and hope. We believe in a God who created us in His image, a Divine Being filled with love and grace, who urges us along a pathway in which we extend that same love and grace to those around us.

The prophet Isaiah expressed it thus: “Cease to dwell on days gone by and to brood over past history. Here and now I will do a new thing; this moment it will break from the bud. Can you not perceive it? I will make a way even through the wilderness and paths in the barren desert” (Isaiah 43:18-19, NEB).

Time to follow it—and find out where it goes!


* Quoted by Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn in “A Path Appears: Transforming Lives, Creating Opportunity,” (2014).

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